It was 'game-on' for Horse Racing at Sandown Park on Saturday. Top Trainer Venetia Williams quickly racked up an impressive winning Double in less than thirty minutes. Her first winner was in the 'Unibet Veterans' Chase', when the 'old timer' 12   year old 'Houblon des Obeaux' performed brilliantly, winning at 7-1. The Favourite was 6-1  rated 'Rathlin Rose' , at the start of the three mile long race , consisting of twenty-two jumps. In the early stages 'Loose Chips' made all the running to lead, with the Favourite racing in the middle of the pack. 'La Reve' started to challenge after the first circuit had been completed. With eight remaining jumps to clear Houblon des Obeaux  accelerated into second place. At the water jump he put Loose Chips under pressure , and overtook with just  three jumps left to negotiate. Houblon des Obeaux sped away, leading by seven lengths. As the final jump loomed, 'Buywise' challenged him, moving into second position, but Buywise dramatically fell at literally the final hurdle. This mistake left Houblon des Obeaux  clear to hack up and win in wonderful style. Winning jockey Charlie Deutsch exclaimed: " It's great , really for the yard... as he's one of the older boys!" The horse was a big Market Mover  starting off at 20-1 earlier in the morning. Just fifteen minutes later Venetia Williams had a winner over at Wincanton in the 'Bet Victor Guaranteed Run For Your Money Handicap Chase.'  Champion Jockey Richard Johnson OBE  headed the field on 'Sizing Platinum' until the twelfth jump when he was unseated.This opened it up for 'Opening Batsman'  who then went into the lead with nine jumps left. He has won this race on three previous occasions , and looked on course to make it a fourth victory. However, 7-4 Favourite 'Copain De Classe'  was making ground, and disputed second place with Williams' 7-2 rated 'Calipto.' This duo moved into the lead. Calipto quickly surged forward, winning the race. It was a quick-fire Double for Williams.


The winning theme of 'girls on top' continued in the final race at Sandown, the '32 Red .com Handicap Hurdle' when 'Monsieur Lecoq' won. This 11-4 Favourite was ridden by female jockey Lizzie Kelly, and was trained by her mother! As the horses jumped away 'Our Merlin' led by two lengths. The daylight was fading as Monsieur Lecoq  moved close to the leader. Two jumps out  Our Merlin still led, but was being challenged by the Favourite , who soon moved  smoothly ahead , and won the race by four lengths. It was the first win at Sandown for both ladies, and they were delighted!

In the opener at Sandown, the massively backed 1-12 Favourite 'Laurina' won emphatically, as expected. Two of the four horses scheduled to run were withdrawn, making the race a two-horse contest Laurina and 'Sensulato.' Laurina had already won at Cheltenham in March last year, and she has been unbeaten in all four of her last races. Top jockey Ruby Walsh was on board, and she competently jumped the first two fences. Sensulato laboured away in Laurina's slipstream, two lengths behind. Laurina galloped on, going five lengths ahead.

Sensulato's jockey Barry Geraghty looked anxious as the lead extended further to eight lengths. He tried to apply some pressure, but Sensulato was struggling with the heavy ground conditions, leaving Laurina to easily clear the final jump and win by several lengths. 


On Sunday,  the Winter Skiing season began in Zagreb, Croatia, with World Number One Austrian Marcel Hirscher  winning the World Cup Slalom event for the fifth time in the Men's Competition.  GB's Dave Ryding finished a commendable eleventh.



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